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Responsive Feeding Can Benefit Your Baby

Written by Erin Eckhart, M.D. on Jan 24, 2018 8:17:00 AM

If you’re a new parent, you've no doubt seen countless guidelines for how and when to feed your baby and received plenty of advice from family and friends. Figuring out which method best suits you and your baby isn’t always easy. I encourage parents to give “responsive feeding” a try. 

Responsive feeding can be carried out whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding. It helps teach new parents and caregivers how to look for cues, either verbal or non-verbal, from the baby that let you know when he or she is hungry and when they are full. This helps eliminate the need to feel pressure to feed the baby on a specific time table.

I use the responsive feeding method with my own children, including my 6-month-old son, pictured here:

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Cues to Look For

When you first bring your baby home, you might find yourself a little lost in trying to decipher what he or she may need or want. But after a while, those different cries and little noises they make start to sound different. Through this they are able to communicate to you what they need. 

The signs an infant gives you to let you know they’re hungry or full are actually pretty simple. Typically, most healthy babies let you know they're hungry through crying. Other signs, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics, include making sucking noises or motions, clenching fingers over the chest or tummy, flexing arms and legs, and moving their hands to their mouth, or putting things in their mouth. 

As you're feeding your baby, pay attention to their reactions. Babies who are satiated will typically turn their face away from the feeding. They may start and stop. They may unlatch often while breastfeeding or spit out or ignore the bottle or breast. They may even fall asleep.

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Responsive feeding means taking these cues and acting on them immediately and accordingly. As soon as you realize your baby is hungry, feed them. As soon as you realize your baby is full, stop. It’s really as simple as that. 

What Are the Benefits? 

There are several advantages to responsive feeding. For example, responsive feeding: 

  • Helps your child develop healthy eating habits.
  • Helps lower your child’s risk of becoming overweight as he or she gets older.
  • Helps your child learn how to feed himself or herself.
  • Helps you bond with your child. 

This method of feeding promotes positive interaction with your baby, helping your baby feel emotionally supported not only as an infant but as he or she grows. 



Dr. Eckhart  is a pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold Clinic who "floats" from clinic location to clinic location on an as-needed basis. Her clinical interests include preventive health and parent education. 



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